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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Wagner's operas certainly contain religious elements, some more than others. But was Wagner himself a religious person? Is there anything he said that gives clues about his beliefs?
 

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I don't think he really was religious although he cherished some Buddhistic and Christian sympathies. This is quite well perceived in the fact that he started writing an opera Die Sieger with a thoroughly Buddhistic plot but then an opera called Jesus of Nazareth as well.

If I recall correctly, then when he was writing Parsifal, he was inspired by Christian communion. You can even see that from the utterly beautiful and poetic libretto sections he wrote for Parsifal's communion scenes. Nevertheless, I don't think he ever was a fully converted Christian or Buddhist. If I recall correctly, then Nietzsche thought that Wagner's sudden Christian sympathies were there just to appeal to German nation and he accused Wagner in hypocrisy as Wagner claimed these views to be sincere (that in Nietzsche's opinion seemed to be quite unbelievable or even impossible). Nietzsche writes in The Case of Wagner: "If Wagner were a Christian, then Liszt was perhaps a Father of the Church!"

In A Communication to My Friends Wagner writes that seeing Lohengrin as merely Christian-Romantic, doesn't consider nor comprehend the work's underlying essence but only its accidental surface. He also writes that those trying to read "Christian or impotently pietistic drift" into his Tannhäuser just weren't able to comprehend Tannhäuser's character. Despite being Christian myself and immensely enjoying the beautiful libretto of Parsifal, I think Wagner's works were essentially analysing the essence of being a human and portraying the struggles of it.

In his letters to Liszt (see Correspondence of Wagner and Liszt Vol. 2 from Gutenberg) he at least once gets super excited about Buddhism and later seems to criticise Liszt for his Christian views. I don't dare to analyse that criticism myself as I don't think I have the competency or understanding of Germany's religious atmosphere during that era. His Buddhistic sympathies seem to me to be connected with his fascination with Schopenhauer, who also had Buddhistic views. However, I think Wagner's religious (and philosophical) ideology might not have been as legitimate as it sometimes seems but rather an overlap between his personal philosophy and some religious or philosophical doctrine, resulting in a mix of different ideas Wagner used in his operas. Wagner strikes me as a classic Romantic-German artist - generally very knowledgable about all sorts of things and erudite, but the fact that he uses these ideas in his works doesn't essentially mean he was a converted and practicing Christian, Buddhist or Schopenhauerian.
 

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"I believe in God, Mozart and Beethoven, likewise in their disciples and apostles; I believe in the Holy Ghost and in the truth of the one and indivisible Art; I believe this Art to be a divine emanation that dwells in the hearts of all enlightened men; I believe that whoever has steeped himself in its sublime delights must dedicate himself to it forever and can never deny it; I believe that all men are blessed through Art and that it is therefore permissible to die of hunger for its sake; I believe that in death I shall attain the highest bliss - that in my life on earth I was a dissonant chord, which death will resolve in glorious purity . . ."
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
"I believe in God, Mozart and Beethoven, likewise in their disciples and apostles; I believe in the Holy Ghost and in the truth of the one and indivisible Art; I believe this Art to be a divine emanation that dwells in the hearts of all enlightened men; I believe that whoever has steeped himself in its sublime delights must dedicate himself to it forever and can never deny it; I believe that all men are blessed through Art and that it is therefore permissible to die of hunger for its sake; I believe that in death I shall attain the highest bliss - that in my life on earth I was a dissonant chord, which death will resolve in glorious purity . . ."
What is the source/context of this quote? I'm having a hard time finding information about it.
 

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I would add to annaw's fine summation above that Wagner was not a believer in a supreme being. He viewed the sacrifice of Christ not as a payment for human sin but as an example of ultimate compassion for mankind and as a Schopenhauerian/Buddhistic demonstration of the overcoming of the will. I would agree with annaw in calling this a philosophy more than a religion. When religious symbols and ideas occur in his operas they can be taken as representing broader conceptions of human nature and life.

You might be interested in a thread I started some time ago discussing the religious aspects of Parsifal.

https://www.talkclassical.com/61698...al-christian.html?highlight=parsifal+religion
 

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I would add to annaw's fine summation above that Wagner was not a believer in a supreme being. He viewed the sacrifice of Christ not as a payment for human sin but as an example of ultimate compassion for mankind and as a Schopenhauerian/Buddhistic demonstration of the overcoming of the will. I would agree with annaw in calling this a philosophy more than a religion. When religious symbols and ideas occur in his operas they can be taken as representing broader conceptions of human nature and life.

You might be interested in a thread I started some time ago discussing the religious aspects of Parsifal.

https://www.talkclassical.com/61698...al-christian.html?highlight=parsifal+religion
This is somewhat off-topic but the original books' thread you quoted in the OP (which itself is a great summary of Wagner's religious views) is pure gold :lol:. Ah, reading the tries to analyse that "open mouth" regie production of Parsifal certainly brightened up my morning.
 

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How do we reconcile this with the quote that he believed in God (Beethoven etc...)?
His views of course changed throughout his life but in her diaries Cosima wrote: R. says, "I do not believe in God but in godliness, which is revealed in a Jesus without sin." Cosima's Diaries, entry for 20 September 1879. This is written four years before Wagner's death, so quite late in his life.

As Woodduck said, Wagner's main problem was the fact that he seemed to sympathise with Jesus in New Testament but not with Old Testament God. Wagner seemed to find the idea that Jesus and Old Testament God are one problematic because he thought they were too different to be connected the way they usually are. He writes about it in his essay Art and Religion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I'm confused about the "I believe in God, Mozart, and Beethoven" quote. The book that has that quote says that it is by a character named "R." from a "story" that Wagner wrote called Death in Paris. I can't find anything about this story other than that book (and maybe another book on Google). The author seems to think that the quote could be Wagner expressing himself through a character. I can't find much information though.
 

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I'm confused about the "I believe in God, Mozart, and Beethoven" quote. The book that has that quote says that it is by a character named "R." from a "story" that Wagner wrote called Death in Paris. I can't find anything about this story other than that book (and maybe another book on Google). The author seems to think that the quote could be Wagner expressing himself through a character. I can't find much information though.
The quote is from Wagner's work An End in Paris written in 1841. It's a prayer of a dying man but not the character who tells the story. You can find an English translation from Google.
 

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Wagner's main problem was the fact that he seemed to sympathise with Jesus in New Testament but not with Old Testament God. Wagner seemed to find the idea that Jesus and Old Testament God are one problematic because he thought they were too different to be connected the way they usually are. He writes about it in his essay Art and Religion.
To be specific, he found Jehovah to be legalistic, warlike, jealous, petty and vicious, in every way opposed to Jesus whose essence was compassion, symbolized by his willingness to die for erring humanity. The desire to dissociate the two - and thereby separate Christianity from Judaism - goes back at least to Gnosticism.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
The quote is from Wagner's work An End in Paris written in 1841. It's a prayer of a dying man but not the character who tells the story. You can find an English translation from Google.
Ah, I see. It's not "death" like that book said, but "end".

I just looked it up. I don't know that the quote can necessarily be interpreted as if it was Wagner's own opinion though.
 

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To be specific, he found Jehovah to be legalistic, warlike, jealous, petty and vicious, in every way opposed to Jesus whose essence was compassion, symbolized by his willingness to die for erring humanity. The desire to dissociate the two - and thereby separate Christianity from Judaism - goes back at least to Gnosticism.
Whew, I was looking through one of his essays and his views were quite... extreme and very multifaceted sometimes. I feel he basically mixed together Christianity and Buddhism and seasoned the whole thing with a generous pinch of Schopenhauer. He also really looked at things from artist's perspective. An interesting man for sure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Whew, I was looking through one of his essays and his views were quite... extreme and very multifaceted sometimes. I feel he basically mixed together Christianity and Buddhism and seasoned the whole thing with a generous pinch of Schopenhauer. He also really looked at things from artist's perspective. An interesting man for sure.
I'm thinking that he didn't believe that there is one true religion and adhere to it alone. But instead, he seems to have let himself decide what is true about what religion. That would make it difficult to determine any of his specific beliefs unless he explicitly stated them.
 

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I'm thinking that he didn't believe that there is one true religion and adhere to it alone. But instead, he seems to have let himself decide what is true about what religion. That would make it difficult to determine any of his specific beliefs unless he explicitly stated them.
Since he apparently never stopped talking and writing except while composing, and since his wife recorded a great deal of what he said to her, we have a clearer idea of his beliefs than of the beliefs of most composers. One would think that would make this inquiry simple, but this is Wagner we're talking about. :lol:
 

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It might be noted that we don't neccessarily know what someone really thinks about religion even when they do tell us directly. (One must always be mindful of the audience, real and anticipated, for any statements. This problem is one of the reasons that autobiographies are so rarely reliable. People frequently are not really honest with themselves, and even less so when they know that others are watching. Religion is one of those subjects with particularly strong emotional effects, and thus one that is often a case where statements are altered for the sake of manipulating others. It should probably not be surprising that it is so often a bedfellow of that other forbidden topic here, politics)
 

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He might have said he wasn't, but I think he was. I'll bet that as he died, at the very last moment he ran into the arms of Jesus, crying. Of course, this is only conjecture.
 
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He might have said he wasn't, but I think he was. I'll bet that as he died, at the very last moment he ran into the arms of Jesus, crying. Of course, this is only conjecture.
Singing "Amazing Grace," no doubt, langsam und schmachtend, with a pause after "a wretch like me," allowing time for self-reflection and for Jesus to say, "You? You're kidding, right?"
 

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Yeah! And then he threw a pie and hit Jesus right in the face, and said "Yes, I'm kidding! You're Jewish!"
 
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